COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Robert Lewis Dear, the suspect in Friday’s shootings at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, mentioned “baby parts” to investigators and in later interviews expressed anti-abortion and anti-government views, a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation told CNN.
Law enforcement officials caution it’s too early to determine a motive in the case until all evidence is gathered and examined. That process is still going on. Though the state is taking the lead, the FBI is conducting its own investigation to determine whether federal charges will be filed.
The official said that propane tanks were found in the area of Dear’s car in the parking lot, and that authorities believe he was trying to shoot them to cause an explosion.
The siege ended Friday when the suspect dropped his gun and surrendered in a hallway once the SWAT team brought in a BearCat armored vehicle and Dear was cornered.
Families of victims speak out
Officer Garrett Swasey died along with two civilian victims in the hail of bullets. He was an elder in his church and a former figure skating artist.
Swasey was a University of Colorado-Colorado Springs officer who rushed to the clinic to offer his assistance. “There was no way any of us could have kept him here,” said UCCS Police Chief Brian McPike. “He was always willing to go. … He had an enthusiasm that was hard to quell.”
The Melrose, Massachusetts, native “found his calling as a police officer,” according to a statement from his family.
“Helping others brought him deep satisfaction and being a police officer was a part of him. In the end, his last act was for the safety and well-being of others and was a tribute to his life,” it said.
As of early Sunday afternoon, a fund-raising page set up for Swasey’s wife of 17 years, Rachel, and his two children — Elijah, 10 and Faith, 6 — had reached more than $70,000 of a stated goal of $100,000.
The two civilians slain in the shooting were preliminary identified by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Sunday as Jennifer Markovsky, 35, and Ke’Arre Marcell Stewart, 29.
Friends and family identify Stewart as a father of two and an Iraq war veteran, according to a GoFundMe page.
— Macradee (@macradee) November 29, 2015
A full identification of the victims will be provided once the autopsies have been completed, according to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.
The full statement released by the Swasey family was the following:
The family of Officer Garrett Swasey sincerely thanks everyone for their support during this very difficult time. Our loss cannot be expressed in words. While the nation now knows Garrett as a hero who gave his life for others, he was also a devoted husband of 17 years and a wonderful father to his two children. His greatest joys were his family, his church, and his profession. We will cherish his memory, especially those times he spent tossing the football to his son and snuggling with his daughter on the couch.
Garrett was born in Melrose, Massachusetts. After a successful career in ice skating, Garrett found his calling as a police officer. Helping others brought him deep satisfaction and being a police officer was a part of him. In the end, his last act was for the safety and wellbeing of others and was a tribute to his life. What we need most today, and in the coming weeks, is your prayers for our family and for others who were impacted by this tragedy. We are grateful for the tremendous outpouring of love that has come from the community and across the nation.
We understand this is a public tragedy felt by many and we also appreciate your support for us to grieve privately.
‘Crime against women’
Attorney General Loretta Lynch has called the shooting, which killed three people and wounded nine more, a “crime against women”; Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has said it’s “a tragedy that is beyond speech.”
Among the victims was Garrett Swasey, a University of Colorado-Colorado Springs police officer who rushed to the clinic to offer his assistance. “There was no way any of us could have kept him here,” UCCS Police Chief Brian McPike said of Swasey during a Saturday evening vigil. “He was always willing to go. … He had an enthusiasm that was hard to quell.”
Colorado Springs Police Chief Peter Carey said that the identities of the other two victims likely will not be released until Monday, after autopsies have been performed.
In addition to the three killed, five officers and four civilians were hospitalized for wounds sustained in the shooting. Lt. Catherine Buckley said Friday night all were in good condition. By late Saturday afternoon, officials said five patients remained in two hospitals.
Opposition to abortion eyed as motive
“I’m not going to say the perpetrator’s name,” a somber Hickenlooper said Saturday, referring to Dear, the man authorities suspect was the shooter.
Dear, 57, is being held without bail in a Colorado Springs jail, according to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.
While authorities said that a motive had not yet been established, Mayor John Suthers said “inferences (could be made) from where it took place,” the Denver Post reported.
Vicki Cowart, president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, went beyond an inference, saying the shooter “was motivated by opposition to safe and legal abortion.” Lynch, who called the “unconscionable attack” a “crime against women receiving health care services,” pledged the full resources of her office for the investigation.
Planned Parenthood, which delivers reproductive health care and sex education to women and men across the United States, has come under attack before.
At least three Planned Parenthood buildings have been vandalized since September, when the organization was criticized in Washington and by some Republican presidential candidates after an anti-abortion group released videos alleging that it sold fetal organs and parts for profit. Planned Parenthood has disputed the veracity of the videos, contending that they are heavily edited and provide a distorted account.
Who is Robert Lewis Dear?
Dear is being held without bail in a Colorado Springs jail, according to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. He is due to appear in court Monday afternoon.
Shown in police photos with dark hair and a fluffy white beard, the suspect appears to have lived a long time in rural solitude in the Carolinas, then more recently in Colorado. Over a decade ago, he had some run-ins with the law while living in South Carolina but was never convicted.
In 1997, Dear’s wife accused him of domestic assault, although no charges were pressed, according to records from the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office in South Carolina.
In 2002, Dear was charged with being a peeping Tom; those counts were dismissed.
In 2003, he was arrested and charged with two counts of animal cruelty, but he was found not guilty in a bench trial.
He later made his home in a hermit shanty in the mountains of North Carolina, CNN affiliate WLOS reported. It published a photo of a small, basic cabin in the woods of Buncombe County.
The Sheriff’s Office there knew Dear from a single civil citation issued in 2014 for allowing his dogs to run wild.
About a year ago, Dear chose the crossroads community of Hartsel, Colorado, as his home, according to public records. It is nestled in grassy plains and rolling foothills framed by Rocky Mountain ranges and is about an hour and 20 minutes’ drive from Colorado Springs.
Dear bought a spread — 65 miles west of the Planned Parenthood clinic — for $6,000.
Zigmond Post, a neighbor, said Dear brought him some anti-Obama pamphlets once. “That’s about all I’ve run into him,” he said.
It’s safe to say that few people knew who Dear was until he walked out of the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood after allegedly shooting 12 people and terrorizing many others.
Scanners relay police plans
Conversations captured over the police scanner gave glimpses into the drama inside the clinic as well as the strategic debate about how to stop the suspect and get his hostages to safety at the same time.
Joan Motolinia’s sister was among those inside. She called him Friday afternoon, and he could hear the shooting in the background, he said.
“She couldn’t say much because she was afraid,” Motolinia said, tearing up as he recounted the call.
Local law enforcement released a statement that said, investigators estimate it will take six to seven days to process the crime scene. It is anticipated that Centennial Blvd. will be open to traffic the morning of Nov. 30.
For complete coverage on the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting, click here.